Nov 12, 2020 - Health

Rural areas are at a vaccine disadvantage

A woman administers a shot to a patient.
Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at temperatures well below freezing, and while large, urban hospitals are rushing to buy expensive ultra-cold freezers to store it, many rural hospitals can't afford them, STAT reports.

The big picture: A review of states' vaccine distribution plans found that many aren't ready to deal with the challenge of delivering the shots, per ProPublica.

  • Health officials also must navigate the fact that Pfizer is expected to deliver the shots in boxes holding 1,000 to 5,000 doses.
  • Needing to quickly administer this many doses "could rule out sending the vaccine to providers who don’t treat that many people, even doctors' offices in cities," ProPublica reports.
  • "It's especially challenging in smaller towns, rural areas and Native communities on reservations that are likely to struggle to administer that many doses quickly or to maintain them at ultracold temperatures."

The bottom line: "Early, when we don’t have lots of doses, I frankly do not anticipate that vaccine will be widely available in every rural community," Amanda Cohn, chief medical officer for the CDC's Vaccine Task Force, said during a call on vaccine implementation earlier this month, per ProPublica.

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